ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) spent 2023 serving Southern Baptists in their efforts to reach North America with the gospel through church planting, compassion ministry, evangelism and chaplaincy.
In 2023, NAMB celebrated a milestone in church planting—more than 10,000 new churches started since 2010—and a record-setting total of $70.2 million given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO).
“If we make the Great Commission the top priority, our best years of ministry are ahead of us,” said NAMB president Kevin Ezell. “As Southern Baptists, we’ve faced challenges within our family of churches and dealt with external pressures from our secularizing culture. We continue to focus on Christ and His mission through it all, proclaiming the gospel and participating in God’s mission to build His kingdom in North America and around the world.”
Send Network – Church Planting
Every year, NAMB tabulates the number of churches Southern Baptists planted the previous year. In 2023, NAMB noted that the class of 2022 church plants—639 new churches—pushed the total of churches Southern Baptists have planted since 2010 beyond the 10,000 mark.
“We could not be more grateful for the way our churches have rallied around the mission of church planting in recent years,” Vance Pitman said following the announcement. Pitman serves as president of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting arm. “As we join in God’s mission to reach the nations, churches are engaging communities with the gospel, making disciples and seeing churches planted as a result.”
Each of Send Network’s orientations for new planters—one in March, the other in November—brought 200 or more missionaries to the event for a total of 402 church planters. Those in attendance represented Send Network’s ethnic and geographic diversity as they seek to start new churches in dozens of different U.S. states and Canadian provinces, both in small towns and in major urban centers. They were represented by hundreds of sending churches.
Throughout 2023, Send Network hosted five Gatherings for church planting missionaries and their wives throughout the U.S. and in Canada, totaling nearly 2,000 planters and wives in attendance.
During 2023, Send Network unveiled its new Mobilization Pathway, which is designed to help churches discover how to take their next missional step in church planting.
Send Network also launched a program in cooperation with the International Mission Board to send church planters around the world to learn from international missionaries and catch a vision for engaging the nations through their church plant.
Send Relief – Compassion Ministry
Send Relief came alongside state conventions, local associations and churches to meet needs and share the gospel in their communities through the Send Relief Serve Tour. In North America, Send Relief rallied these various ministry partners in Louisiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama and Pennsylvania. In total, the Serve Tour served more than 19,000 people with 3,881 volunteers, which generated more than 4,400 gospel conversations.
Maui endured unprecedented devastation as the town of Lahaina suffered one of the worst wildfires in U.S. history as it destroyed nearly the entire town and killed 100 people. This year was also an active year for tornadoes, and a major hurricane, Idalia, brought extreme storm surge to Florida’s Gulf Coast before romping across Georgia and the Carolinas.
All in all, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) served more than 630,000 volunteer work hours, prepared more than 1 million meals, worked on nearly 5,300 hundred homes and witnessed 8,561 professions of faith by responding to these natural disasters and other crises in 2023.
For more details about Send Relief’s ministry in North America and around the globe, see this year in review story.
NAMB’s evangelism team released a new resource, the NAMB Evangelism Kit, designed to help churches create and foster a culture of evangelism in their congregations. The first kits a church or pastor orders are free. By November more than 10,000 kits had been distributed.
In cooperation with Louisiana Baptists, local associations in and around New Orleans and local churches, NAMB helped Southern Baptists host a successful Crossover outreach event in June as 336 people surrendered their lives to Christ as Southern Baptists engaged the city with the gospel.
Through additional evangelism funds made available to state conventions, dozens of evangelistic events and emphases focused on reaching the next generation with the gospel. NAMB also hosted a multiethnic evangelism training event attended by more than 120 pastors, associational leaders and state convention staff, representing 45 different language or affinity groups in the SBC.
Southern Baptists also rallied to recognize Baptism Sunday and Student Baptism Sunday, and 2022 data released in 2023 showed a second straight increase in baptisms across the SBC , though the numbers have yet to rebound from pre-COVID levels.
The Evangelism team also hosted six Refresh Retreats across North America for 1,100 pastors and wives from 35 different states. The retreats helped them recharge and receive encouragement and training to lead their churches well.
Chaplains play a key role in the advancement of the gospel. Their role often enables them to go into places that pastors and other ministry leaders might not have access to for the sake of providing spiritual and pastoral care.
This year, Southern Baptist chaplains served in the aftermath of tragic crises, like the school shooting in Nashville, and ministered to the loved ones of deceased soldiers. They served on military bases in North America and around the world through gospel ministry.
NAMB hosted an evangelism training event for more than 365 chaplains at Ridgecrest Conference Center. The training included chaplains from around the world and those who serve in a variety of different spaces, ranging from the military to public safety to disaster relief. In June, NAMB held an event to honor chaplains at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Leadership, Replanting and Resources
Early in 2023, NAMB announced the addition of Ken Whitten to lead the pastoral leadership team at NAMB. Whitten has come alongside pastors to care for them and assist in their leadership development. The NAMB Leadership Institute continues to be a source of encouragement for young pastors, and Whitten worked with NAMB’s resource team to produce a toolkit for pastors.
NAMB’s Replant team continued their work of helping to revitalize and replant dying churches. They named Ryan Durham, a pastor in Nebraska, as Replanter of the Year in 2023. The team hosted several events designed to support pastors in the difficult work of replanting across North America.
The research and resource development team produced several podcasts, such as one on the life and ministry of Tony Evans and another highlighting the ministry of a church planter facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.